Strict but Sweet. Firm but Friendly 

I’m dealing with a snacking-in-between-meals issue with my youngest daughter, Catalina. She recently turned four and her opinionated-ness has also escalated in the last year. Thankfully, she’s learning to balance it with politeness, but this morning, she actually challenged me in the car. 

When she clamored for snacks from Tiana, I told her, “You can’t have any because you didn’t finish your breakfast.”

Very quickly she retorted, “Well you didn’t eat anything for breakfast.” 

Oh my. First, disrespectful. Second, how did she learn to deflect issues at such a young age?!

I addressed the disrespect by correcting her for speaking to me that way. Breakfast isn’t something I commonly skip out on but today, Tiana needed help getting ready for her achievement test and I only had thirty minutes to shower and change as well as pack her bag.

Furthermore, I explained to Catalina that she was still growing bigger and taller and mommy wasn’t growing anymore. She got this.
 
However, the issue of her snacking wasn’t to be dismissed.
 
“You cannot snack in between meals if you don’t eat your breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” My statement was matter of fact and non-negotiable.

“Snacks,” I continued, “are allowed for children who eat their meals properly.”
 
I know this didn’t sit well with her and she tried numerous times this morning to negotiate and persist in her asking. 

It is totally annoying when my children pester me to death. I’m sure you can relate! And there are certain personality types among my kids that gravitate towards this method of wearing me down. 

Catalina, is at this stage of her character development. Yet, her personality should never intimidate me so that I give in at the expense of standing my ground on an important issue.
 
Over the years I’ve dealt with numerous eating problems in my kids – pickiness, distractedness, snacking, a sweet tooth, taking painfully long to finish a meal, detesting veggies, etc. With Catalina, it’s eating yoghurt, Yakult, milk chocolate drinks, Haw Flakes, gummy bears once in a while, and the like (okay, not super bad stuff) that make her disinterested in finishing her meals. So now the law is, NO SNACKING IF YOU DON’T EAT ALL THE FOOD ON YOUR PLATE FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH OR DINNER.

The entire morning Catalina complained of starvation, hunger pangs, and the like. She even threatened, “I’m so hungry, I’m going to vomit,” complimenting her statement with dramatic body language. 

A part of me felt pity but the better part of me recognized that she would surely not starve for a few hours in between breakfast and lunch. If she did vomit, we would clean it up together, but I wasn’t going to budge. Sure enough, when she realized how immovable I was, she declared, “I can’t wait to go home…to eat!”
 
Well now, that sounds like the voice of wisdom to me! And she ate her lunch heartily. 
 
When I asked her, “Why does mommy want you to eat properly?”

She answered, “Because you love me.”

Exactly.


It’s easy to be manipulated by a dominant child like Catalina. Yet if I know what is best for her, especially in the area of something like eating, then I can’t let her dictate how and what she will eat as a four year old. She doesn’t quite grasp the food pyramid yet or the effect of junk food and bad nutrition on the body, so I have got to set the rules. 

Time and time again the food problems Edric and I encounter with our kids boils down to an issue of obedience. If we train our kids to obey us, then they ought to obey in all areas. To leave one area as an exemption is to communicate to them that it’s okay to defy us when they don’t like what we tell them to do. Hmm…This sounds like an effective way to teach our kids how to have selective obedience (which is really known as disobedience.) 

Therefore, willful children need strong-willed parents to exercise strictness and firmness that is balanced out by genuine sweetness and friendliness. Kids don’t need to be yelled at to understand that we mean business as their parents. Screaming at them may terrorize them into compliance but it’s going to lead to resentment and rebellion in the future. 

Therefore we need God’s wisdom to deal with the tension between strict and sweet, firm and friendly. Strict means that we dictate clear rules and boundaries. Firm implies consistent follow through to enforce these and to discipline when they aren’t followed. Sweetness and friendliness appeal to the hearts of our kids. 

I am not talking about being buddy-buddy with them — a form of unhealthy parenting. We are authoritative parents first, which needs to be obvious. But, we can certainly be warm and kind, and provide them with the security of knowing they are special and loved by us. 

When I told Catalina she couldn’t eat snacks, my tone was calm and placid as I explained the consequences to her. Nevertheless, I was resolute. In the end she conceded and very well remembered her lesson. 

Last night my third son, Titus, nearly gagged as he dutifully swallowed each bite of an avocado salad he didn’t like. He even held his nose while he ate it to make the experience more tolerable. It was a comedic sight to behold as he squeezed his nostrils with the tips of his fingers and spooned each bite to shovel into his mouth. He is an older child so he obeyed because Edric and I told him he had to eat his vegetables. Afterwards, I commended him for his perseverance. 

The premise is that every child can be taught and trained for their good, even when it comes to eating. The question is are we willing to wrestle through the process of teaching and training them even when it’s inconvenient, exhausting, and difficult for us to do so? 

Here’s some encouragement for us from Galatians 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬) 

The paraphrased version for us, as parents: Let us not grow tired of doing what is good for our kids (discipleship in all areas and discipline to produce obedience). At just the right time we will experience the blessing of our efforts if we don’t give up!

 

Does Your Child Know You Like Her?

Most kids know that their parents love them, but they may not always feel like their parents LIKE them or LIKE being with them. This is an area of my own parenting that I have tried to work on, especially with my daughter, Tiana, who really looks up to me.

We just came from Niqua's Factory where both of us attended their bag making workshop with other friends and relatives and their daughters. What a fun activity!

Tiana did the wristlet bag (leather) for P950 and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience! It wasn't very easy but she persevered and she was very focused. I was so proud of her.

Edric has activities that he does with our three sons to bond with them and I am finding it necessary to be intentional with Tiana, too. Catalina is only four, and she naturally demands my attention, but Tiana is more soft-spoken. With her, I need to initiate building a relationship with her by engaging her through activities she enjoys.

Recently she expressed that she would like to do more arts and crafts which is why I jumped on the opportunity to go to Niqua with her after learning about their workshop from my friend, Mich. On the way to the workshop, Tiana spontaneously revealed, "I like being with you, mom."

She said this while sitting beside me in the car, with her legs crossed like a little lady. What a sweetheart!

Many years ago I learned about the principle of magic moments — spontaneous, unplanned moments when your child opens up his or her heart to you. These occasions happen when kids know that you find joy in being with them, participating in the activities that are important to them. During magic moments, kids believe their parents genuinely like them so they respond with trust and the willingness to be open and vulnerable.

Tiana feels liked by me when we do art together. That's when she comes alive and let's me into her world. Today, she worked diligently to finish her bag, which I thought she made for herself. Yet in the car, after the morning ended, she handed it to me. "I made this for you, mom."

I know how hard she labored to assemble the bag and hammer in the studs. Her fingers got sore at one point so it was very special when she offered the bag to me. When I asked her why she insisted on me having it, her response was, "Because I love you."

The older my kids get, the more convinced I become that raising kids isn't that complicated. Oh, I get how kids can get very complicated. When my children's needs aren't met, when they don't feel loved, important, or cherished, and when there isn't consistent discipline and discipleship from Edric and me, they act up, disobey, have bad attitudes, and antagonize each other. They are also susceptible to negative peer influence and ungodly media influences (which is also why we homeschool.) However, when Edric and I spend quality time with our children so we can invest in teaching, training, and building relationships with them, they are such a delight! They act very differently, in a positive way, when they experience what it means to be liked by us.

We can take a cue from Christ. When the disciples were preventing the parents from bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus, he stopped the disciples. Instead of seeing the children as an interruption or a bother, he gladly received them into his arms. (Mark 10:13-16) He honored them and gave them significance.

This is one of those tender passages about Christ that demonstrates how we, as parents, should treat our own kids. No matter how busy or hectic our lives may get, our kids need us to bless them. They need us to LIKE them and LIKE being with them.

Teaching Bodily Discipline to Kids 

Growing up, I appreciated the weight my parents put on physical fitness and healthy eating. They encouraged my siblings and me to play outdoors everyday and they got us into sports. As a result, all of us excelled in our sport of choice in college. I played UAAP soccer (football) and my other siblings were on the UAAP basketball teams.

Some of the benefits that athleticism produced in my life were the ability to tolerate pain and to push myself to the limit. I believe this is one of the reasons why I was able to have five Lamaze births despite the death-like pain I had to endure. Of course, I ultimately credit the grace of God for making it through each birth. I would call out to him at the height of the excruciation and he would always come through for me. However, I also believe that I had to do my part, and being a sporty person made me physically, mentally, and emotionally strong.

This morning, as I was running on the treadmill, the passage in 1 Corinthians 9:27 came to mind, “But I buffet (discipline) my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

I kept chanting in my head as the pace of the treadmill increased, “Buffet my body! Buffet my body!”

It’s not just about physical fitness which can be an idol in the lives of so many people, including mine, if I am not careful about its proper place. The real reason why it’s necessary to discipline the body is because we train ourselves to accommodate pain, to wait for results, to say no to the wrong things, and to persevere. In our spiritual lives these abilities are very important which is why Paul told his disciple Timothy, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness…for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8) Since I don’t have loads of time to dedicate to exercise, I stick to a regimen that keeps me healthy and able-bodied.

However, I want to focus on the higher purpose for fitness, which is something that all of us need to pass on to our kids as well. Admittedly, Edric and I have been less intentional with our own kids when it comes to their athletics. We agreed that the academic side of the homeschooling would be handled by me and Edric would take over the kids’ sports’ programs. However, Edric’s busy-ness has prevented him from giving their physical development the focus that he would like to give it (apart from the kids playing outdoors and signing them up for random PE classes).

This was an area of our parenting that we discussed recently because it disappointed me that our sons’ athleticism wasn’t his priority. Edric was also a varsity athlete in his highschool and college years. Given that we were both athletes, having kids who weren’t into competitive sports concerned me. We experienced the amazing benefits of working with teams, pushing our bodies, and dealing with the failures and successes of the games and tournaments we participated in. I wanted our sons to experience the same things to help them grow in character.

However, I couldn’t keep nagging Edric about this. After all the kids were excelling in other areas and they did have exercise time. Plus, they tried a number of sports – basketball, swimming, tennis, football, etc. They did pretty well in tennis and swimming, but over the summer they took a break and we haven’t re-enrolled them. Well, I figured that as they got into the high school years, Edric would direct our sons to sports that they could focus on (since that’s when it will matter in preparation for college.)

Thankfully, my parents spent a good two weeks with our kids while Edric and I were in Australia. Being the very purposeful grandparents that they are, they had our kids swim every morning and they signed up our two older sons for a basketball camp. The best thing that came out of this was that my dad spoke to Edric after we got back and emphasized that he should prioritize the boys’ training in sports. Hallelujah!

Edric really respects my dad and has a great relationship with him. So he received the suggestion positively. Just a few days before we got back to Manila Edric also showed me his revised yearly plan for our kids, which included him being more hands-on with the boys in the area of their physical development. So God was already speaking to Edric’s heart about this.

This is one of the things I appreciate about my husband. When he recognizes an area that he needs to improve on, he will do something about it. It may not always be right at the moment when the issue is brought up to him, but he will eventually take action.

Since we arrived home, he has lovingly forced our sons to exercise and he intends to involve them in his daily workouts. The boys are excited and so am I! This will provide our sons with great bonding time with their dad, and they will acquire traits like perseverance, hard work, as well as mental and physical toughness. He’s also thinking through what sports to enrol them in again.

I get our kids to go running with me but it’s different when Edric pushes them. He is able to connect with their masculinity and draw it out as well.

As for our girls, they do ballet pretty consistently. I’ve already seen the benefits in their own lives. They’ve become more confident with making friends and performing in front of others during their recitals, and they are more graceful and coordinated. Should they choose to do a more competitive sport then that would be wonderful, too. In fact, I’ve told my girls, “We need to be fit and strong as women. God has called us to care for the needs of our families. And someday, you may become moms, too. Moms need to be strong!” (Of course, women have to be physically strong for many other reasons!)

Tiana, my fourth child, echoes this to me now. When we are running around the village and I begin to see signs of fatigue in her, I ask her if she wants to rest but she will usually reply, “It’s okay, I want to become strong!”


That’s my girl!

I’m really praying that this year Edric and I will be much better at instilling bodily discipline in our kids. And beyond this, I also hope that Edric will consistently come along side our sons and guide them in the area of athletics. There are so many present and future benefits to be had, especially in the areas of their emotional, mental, and spiritual development that we have to give it importance as parents.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three A’s in Parenting

I have been sitting through the seminars at Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Australia, sorting through all the insights that I have been picking up. Every session has taught me something worthy of a blog entry but I will begin with the one that struck a parenting chord with me.

During one of the leadership workshops, not expecting to hear any points connected to motherhood or fatherhood, I leaned in very attentively when the speaker, Chris Hodges, zoned in on the biblically recorded words that God the Father declared to His Son in the gospels. According to Him, there were only two instances when we hear the verbalized words of God directed towards Christ and these bore the same message in both passages: THIS IS MY SON. WHOM I LOVE. IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED. (Matthew 3:16-17 and Matthew 17:5)
What do we see here? 

1. This is my son (child): Acceptance

2. Whom I love: Affection 

3. In whom I am well pleased: Affirmation 

According to Hodges, these three A’s will create a culture in the home that will produce leaders. 

Every child desires to belong, to know their identity in the context of family, to feel unafraid to fail and make mistakes because they are unconditionally loved and accepted. Hodges shared about how he dealt with an under-aged drinking instance that his son was busted for. His son tended to be the type who kind of went with the flow without thinking through the consequences too well. 

As Hodges picked up his handcuffed son at the precinct, he relates that he had two options in that moment. The first was to berate, lecture and scold his son for his stupid mistake. But the more important second option was to tell him, “I have never loved you more than I do now. And I know you have never needed me more than you do now. What you did was wrong, but this is not who you are.” 

Edric and I have found ourselves in similar predicaments with our kids, especially Titus, who, at times, tended to act before thinking when he was a younger child. Although the circumstances he got himself into deeply frustrated Edric and me, we would remind him, “We love you no matter what. Nothing will change our love for you. But because we love you we will help you to change for the better.” 

By God’s grace, he has changed a lot! (He just chipped his front tooth the other day by diving into a shallow part of the pool but we love him anyway!)

Our children also need our affection — physical demonstrations of love. Each of our kids is different, but they all appreciate hugs from us. My fourth child, Tiana, will ask for a hug and kiss every night after I pray for her. Peaceful sleep follows when I complete this nightly routine. It matters to her. 

Amazingly, my children become more responsive to homeschooling when I pepper their mornings with spontaneous hugs. There is something about generous doses of affection that energizes them. 

The third thing our kids need from us is affirmation. Some weeks ago, I walked into my bedroom and Elijah was busily reading a new book. I told him that I enjoyed his company so much and that he and his siblings were my favorite people to hang out with (besides Edric, of course.) He looked up from his book and said, “I really need to hear that still, mom.” 

This surprised me because he is such an independent and confident young man, by God’s grace. In fact, I thought that if I compliment him too much it might make him proud since he is gifted in many ways. Yet, like my other kids, he longs to be told that he is important, valued, and special. 


I wanted to end this post with a nugget of wisdom my mom passed on to me. “See people for what they can become (in Christ).” As we communicate to our children acceptance, affection, and affirmation, they may not always obey, respect, or honor us. However, who they are today doesn’t have to determine who we can help them to become tomorrow. With God’s supernatural grace, they can grow up to make a positive difference for Jesus on this earth. 

Hodges challenged us to prophesy great things over our children. He would declare to his kids every day, “You are a leader. You are an influencer, you will not be influenced by the world.” 

Let’s remind our kids of the same! 

Obedience and Discipline

As our children move up in their ages, training them in obedience doesn’t stop. Disciplining for disobedience, however, may evolve into different forms.

When our kids are young, we employ spanking with a paddle or flat rod that doesn’t break the skin. It stings enough to make an impression about the importance of obedience. However, it doesn’t bruise them or injure them like a physical beating done in anger would. In fact, it’s never to be done in anger.

For those who aren’t familiar with the past articles I have written on spanking, allow me to re-emphasize the following: 

– We don’t spank in anger. 

– It’s done in private for disobedience of a rule or instruction that has been communicated clearly. 

– One or two efficient swats across the rear end (where it’s most padded in their body) is enough to inflict calculated pain. 

– We explain to our child(ren) why they are getting a spanking, that learning obedience is necessary to protect them from future pain. 

– We allow them to acknowledge how they disobeyed us and ask for forgiveness. 

– A hug and I love you follow after the ordeal.

We can count the number of times we have had to spank each of our kids. Spanking’s intent in our home has not been punitive or to shame our kids. As much as possible, we’ve also avoided using it as a threat to manipulate them into obeying us. (I must confess that I’ve made my foibles with Catalina in particular.) Yet generally, spanking was and is used to connect disobedience with consequences. The kids learned and continue to learn to respect and honor authority. We don’t spank excessively or for an indefinite period of time, either. By the age of six or seven, the approach to discipline evolves. 

Three of our five kids are past the age of seven, so spanking isn’t as effective anymore and they have graduated to different forms of discipline. With the older boys, we employ natural logical consequences and withdrawal of privileges.

For example, recently, the boys had to pay for the repair of their gadgets. They hadn’t stewarded these properly, something that Edric and I instructed them to do. As a result, screens needed to be repaired. Having understood that they failed to take good care of gadgets that had been entrusted them, they owned up to their mistake and apologized. However, a consequence followed. They used money they worked hard to earn and gift money to pay for their mistake. It was a painful lesson but a memorable one. 

Yet another example was when they didn’t complete certain assignments I asked them to while I was away in Kenya. They were tasked to finished reading their history material. Well, they only read a few pages. So what happened when I got back from Kenya? Their time on gadgets was suspended until they finished their history work. They knew this was a fair consequence. I had to withdraw privileges for disregarding my instruction. Since gadget time to play educational games or do coding mattered to them, this consequence “stung.”

For the most part, I praise God that my kids are obedient. They want to honor Edric and me, and they try their best to obey us. So these moments of having to withdraw privileges or allow them to experience natural, logical consequences are infrequent. But they still happen. 

When I get tired of correcting or training my kids in the area of obedience, or when I get intimidated by my strong-willed children like Catalina, I have to tell myself, Obedience is for their good. If I love them I will NOT stop teaching them to obey. Edric is committed to the same thing.

Why is obedience so beneficial? 

1. PROTECTION from self-inflicted pain. Many people reap the consequences of wrong choices, choices that go against the God-ordained authorities in their lives, and against God’s plan for them. As a result they end up spiritually, emotionally, and physically broken. 

Proverbs 30:17 affirms this. “The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.”

Deuteronomy 28:15 warns, “But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” 

When I was sixteen I dated a guy without the approval of my parents. I was stubborn and failed to honor them. Although they didn’t outrightly tell me to stop dating the guy, I knew that they thought I was too young. However I persisted in the relationship. In the end I was so crushed and broken-hearted. I felt used, manipulated, and disrespected by the guy on many levels. The relationship turned out to be an awful one. I wasted two precious years of high school.

Looking back I wish I never dated the guy but hindsight didn’t spare me from the consequences of my wrong choice. Had I prioritized honoring my parents, my high school years would have been so much more productive and fruitful.

2. The PROMISE of well-being. 

God rewards obedience. “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God…” (Deuteronomy‬ ‭28:1-2)

Ephesians 6:3 says, “it may go well with you and that you enjoy long life on the earth,” but it’s premised by obedience and honoring of parents in verses 1 and 2. We can take the phrases “go well with you” and “enjoy long life on the earth” literally.  

Logically, when we refrain from going against God’s design and principles, we avoid many of the problems that cut a person’s life short. Take for instance a very simple example. I tell my kids not to eat a lot of sugar, explaining to them that it’s really bad for their bodies in excessive amounts. If they refuse to listen, they will get a slew of sicknesses associated with a bad diet. In the long run, they will compromise their health.

On a more serious level, my siblings and I trusted in our parents’ approval when it came to choosing our spouses. We wanted their blessing in this area. There’s no doubt that going against their wishes would have led to undue stress in our relationships with our spouses and issues that we may not have foreseen. 

Having counseled many couples and singles in the area of marriage and relationships, I see how God has given parents certain instincts and insights when it comes to helping their children select a life partner. Even when a parent or parents can seem unreasonable, for as long as they aren’t asking their child to do something against God’s Word, most children are better off respecting their parents’ wishes about the person they should marry. 

Some people obey God but they don’t live long on the earth, yet I still believe they lived the exact amount of time that God wanted them to in order to accomplish His purposes. In this sense, they lived full lives. My sister-in-law’s brother died a day before turning thirty. He was on-fire for Christ, but God took him sooner than later. Here is where I won’t pretend to understand the greater purposes of God. However, I do know that for Steve (my sister-in-law’s brother), he lost nothing by dying young. In fact, he is surely rejoicing in the presence of the Lord. His legacy in the hearts and minds of people lives on today which tells me that the life of a godly person doesn’t end on earth at the point of his or her death. Instead it continues to make a positive impact on others. 

3. PURPOSE and discernment of God’s Will. “My son, observe the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light…” (Proverbs 6:20 – 23)

Many people have asked me, “How do I know what God’s will is?”

The simple answer to this question is to obey in the areas that are obvious then God will reveal the rest. Corrie Ten Boom said, “When we are obedient, God guides our steps and our stops.” One of our life purposes’ is to live in daily submission to the Lord. What are some practical areas where we can submit to Him? Purity. Holiness. Forgiving those who have hurt us. Loving people. Honoring Him with our choices.

These are obvious areas where we don’t have to ask, “Is this God’s will for me?” Substitute any of the above into the question and the answer is, “Yes, it’s God’s will for me to be pure, to be holy, to forgive, to love, to honor Him.”

Are we obeying Him in these areas? If we aren’t then how can we expect Him to show us what comes next? Daily attentiveness and listening to the Lord’s voice is a prerequisite to hearing Him clearly when we have to make the bigger decisions – what job to take, whom to marry, where to live, whom to partner with in business or what business venture to get into, etc. How can we discern God’s voice when it really counts if we’ve deafened ourselves to Him in the day to day? 
“The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.” (Psalm 25:14)

4. The POWER of God and the PRIVILEGE OF PARTICIPATION in building His Kingdom. When Joshua was leading the Israelites across the Jordan River to enter the promised land, the priests had to step into the water first like God asked them to before it dried up for them. Then, they could walk across safely. The miracle didn’t happen before the obedience.

When Edric and I have conflicts and we are about to minister to people whether it’s via public speaking or counseling, we have to resolve our issues first and ask for forgiveness from one another, otherwise there’s no empowering of the Holy Spirit in us to connect with the hearts of people or to effectively deliver the Word of God. We may not feel like doing so, but the Bible tells us to ask for forgiveness and to forgive, and to refrain from doing so would be a violation of God’s Word.

Just this morning, Edric and I got irritated at each other for being late to a meeting. It was my fault for leaving my phone but I felt that his reaction wasn’t fair. So I accused him of failing to be on the ball himself and not deciding on a specific time for us to leave the house. Well, this conversation snowballed and I rolled my eyes at one point and called him a “jerk” under my breath when he couldn’t hear me. I know. It was bad. I was so wrong. I let my irritation control my tongue. 

Since we were on our way to a ministry meeting, we had to resolve it. We knew we couldn’t stand before the Lord or others with authenticity or with spiritual authority. So we both apologized and asked for each other’s forgiveness. It wasn’t easy but it was necessary. We knew there would be no power in our lives if we remained in sin, persisting in disobedience towards God in the form of anger and unforgiveness. 

5. The PEACE of knowing we true followers of Christ. 

Many times, Edan, our second child who always like to be sure about everything (a sigurista in Tagalog), asks me, “Mom do you think I love God?” 

My reply is almost always, “Edan, I know you love God because you desire to obey us, you desire to obey Him. There is evidence in your life that you have Christ in your life.” 

When we obey God from the heart, we can confidently say that we are true followers of His, that we love Him. John 14:21 tells us, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” Obedience is the evidence of real relationship with God and love for God. 

Since obedience is of infinite importance, let us keep OVER-emphasizing obedience in our homes. In fact, in ours, we get everyone to memorize the mantra, “Obedience brings blessings!” Even little Catalina will shout this out if prodded to. The benefits of obedience are beyond material things — beyond monetary gains, fame, or worldly accomplishments. These things are wonderful, but what counts more is that our kids avoid the painful consequences of sin, that they experience a long, fruitful life that is directed by God for His purposes and empowered by Him, and that we have the peace of knowing they belong to Him. And might I just add, obedient kids are such a delight! They are a blessing to their parents and to those around them.

Getting Kids to Eat the Right Food

I have witnessed many battles over food played out between parents and their kids (mine included) in almost every eating scenario one can imagine. It’s a struggle to get kids to eat well or to finish the food on their plates. Each of my five kids has gone through some sort of food strike or issue in their early childhood years that required intervention. 

According to a pediatrician who specializes in gastrointestinal health, he explained that kids form their eating habits by the age of two. Afterwards it’s a challenge to modify these. 

On the one hand I agree. I think we need to set the stage for our kids by giving them vegetables and fruits as early as possible. At the same time, I also believe we can train our kids to eat healthy food even if their palate wasn’t conditioned to like it. 

All my kids, at one point, hated vegetables. Hate is a strong word so I will go with “disliked” vegetables. However, today, if asked to, they will eat their vegetables even if they gag through the process of doing so. Thankfully, it’s just little Catalina who is still resistant at times. (She’s still in training.) Yet the rest of my kids have been taught to eat what’s on their plates. 

The only reasonable explanation for this is that they have been taught to obey. They know that obedience to Edric and myself includes the realm of eating, too. 

Obedience is the first character priority of any parent. Afterwards, getting them to eat isn’t such a struggle. When my oldest son, Elijah, was a little boy, eating was such a miserable experience for him and for me. He was so picky and spent hours chewing his food. It was maddening. Yet, he was trainable because he was obedient. Edric and I didn’t give up. Now, he is fourteen and his food preferences cover all kinds of cuisines.

After Edric and I realized that it was possible to shape the food tastes of our first child, we did the same with all our other kids. It’s a blessing that we don’t have to war with them over food choices. Titus may be a slow eater but he can be counted on to clean his plate by the end of a meal. Catalina might try to avoid her veggies, but if told to obey, she will listen. 

Although my kids are on the thin side, they are healthy. Thankfully, they don’t get sick often and they remain energetic and full of life. I believe their diet has a lot to do with this. But it’s necessary for Edric and I to be intentional about training them to be good eaters. 

Here is what worked and is working in our home so far:

Baby stage: 

I breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and then introduce solids. As early as possible, I let my babies eat food off the table. I don’t give blended and puréed baby food for too long. 

If we are eating healthy, then it’s good enough for my babies, too. The same pediatrician I cited earlier also told me that babies benefit from texture in their food. 

Toddler stage: 

Instill obedience. By two years of age, they have been disciplined to obey which extends into their eating. 
Let them feed themselves as much as possible. My sister doesn’t mind the big mess her kids make when they pick up food, smash it into their mouths, and smear it on every surface. The table looks like a war zone afterwards but her kids eat well. I had to learn this with my own kids. They used to need yayas to spoon feed them. Sometimes, Catalina still likes one of my household helps to feed her but more often than not, she’s on her own at the table and responsible for not going hungry. 


Vegetables are a must whether my kids like it or not. We start with veggies that they appreciate like carrots, beans, squash, and pechay, then move on to other veggies. Fruit is easier because it’s sweet so kids don’t need too much convincing. It’s vegetables that are often the hurdle. Every meal past breakfast, our kids are required to eat vegetables. 

Expose them to different cuisines and encourage them to at least taste what they normally wouldn’t so they expand their preferences.  Whenever Edric and I are eating something new that my kids have never tasted, I will say, “Just one bite and then you can decide whether you want to eat more. But try it first.” 
Affirm their good eating habits. Encouragement works wonders. When I say, “I am so proud of you for eating your vegetables,” my younger kids will beam. They appreciate being acknowledged for their effort. 

Young children to teens: 

Make eating times fun bonding times as a family. When meals are about connecting, the kids tend to enjoy lingering at the table to eat. 

We also teach our kids the benefits of healthy eating and we model it. They know that Edric and I try our best to avoid sugary foods and drinks as well as junk food. We aren’t legalistic about it but our kids are convinced that healthy eating is important. 

At the end of the day any bad eating habit in our children falls under our accountability as parents. If we aren’t purposeful, they will not be purposeful about food either. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older, he will not depart from it.” 

Teaching Kids to Organize Their Things

As much as possible, I try to instill in my kids the value and discipline of picking up after themselves. Even little Catalina, at three years old, is learning this habit. I need to repeat instructions with her more often than my older kids. However, they all know that in our home, your mess is your responsibility. When they forget, I remind them.

The homeschool room gets the messiest, especially at the end of the morning when cut and torn paper, writing instruments, craft materials, books and notebooks, as well as a few toys pepper the room. Catalina probably contributes to seventy percent of the disarray. 

Tiana, who doesn’t like disorder, will grab a broom and begin sweeping. Edan takes the initiative to return his books to their proper location. As for Titus and Elijah, they need some gentle pushing to motivate them to clean up as well. Everyone is supposed to put their own books away, on their designated shelves. It’s part of their learning experience, and something that I am pretty sure my future daughters and sons-in-law will thank me for. Wink. 

I have also instructed the household help to reinforce the cleaning-up-after-themselves habit for my kids. It’s so easy to be lazy and delegate tidying up to others, but my kids won’t learn about stewardship, responsibility, or organization this way.

I am not at the level of tidiness that my sister-in-law, Jenny, is…someone who is a neat freak in a good way. She’s my peg for orderliness. Yet, I would like to think that I have improved over the years of being married to a wonderful husband whose idea of a cathartic experience is to clean out his closet and de-clutter. He is strong and masculine, but I find it adorable when I see him standing in front of his side of the walk-in closet, humming a tune while taking stock of what to throw out or give away, how to re-arrange his shoes, or thoughtfully line up his shirts and pants. 

Living with someone who abhors clutter, who feels ruffled when his things are moved an inch from their original location, has caused a little bit of his OCD behavior to rub off on me. I am still messy in comparison. But we do share a common liking for keeping the home tidy. 

Very simply put…we prefer to avoid stacks of objects, books, and papers on desks or cabinets, and we throw away, donate or garage-sale surplus and unused possessions that needlessly collect dust. As I share this, I actually feel guilty about three areas in the home that require sorting yet again — the linen closet with two bins that I haven’t opened in a number of months, the guest room closet which the househelp recently stuffed with miscellaneous items, and the storage room, which is, well, collecting more storage. 

Going back to training the kids…

Recently, I was asked to write about Simply Modular: “the first modular storage system designed for those who like to constantly change interior layout and move around through the use of simple connectable planks. Planks come in different colors are self-assembled into different styles to meet the individual needs of the furniture.” 


My boys jumped on the opportunity to assemble the planks. The experience served as an application for geometry and logic. They had to configure the planks according to their design. And when they made mistakes, it was easy to take the planks apart again. 


Naturally, Titus, my mechanical son, was very eager to participate in this. Elijah, too, took charge of the building. He even instructed me what to do. 



Since the planks were made of lightweight and durable plastic, they could be assembled and transferred to any place in the house. So my kids designed the furniture pieces in the living room and then we carried them to the girls’ room. 

Tiana and Catalina were thrilled! Tiana, as I said, gets really excited about organizing her things. I know, it’s kind of weird, but nice. 

She went to work right away and begged me to help her. Since I had to leave for an appointment, I requested that we resume the task another time. Her response, “You promise, okay?” 

My goodness. This girl likes to be clean and to organize!


The only objective feedback I have on the planks is that the doors don’t close completely. I am trying to figure out a fix for this. But other than that, Simply Modular has provided me with a quick and easy solution for the girls’ storage needs. Plus, we can always redesign and remodel the planks to serve another purpose. 

Other ideas from Simply Modular:

Simply Modular Furniture System, which started in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, is quickly earning popularity among millenials with fast-paced and ever-changing lifestyles, as well as condo investors. It is fun, flexible, practical, durable and affordable, as it combines function, quality, design and value – with sustainability in mind. It is the first of its kind in the country.

Simply Modular are connectable panels that are self-assembled to form different types of furniture – a shelf, cabinet, console table, closet, bed, desk, bench, etc. They may be reused and morphed into different styles and sizes as needed. Storing the panels takes up minimal space as they are flatly stacked in a box, easily transportable. All parts, made from high quality ABS plastic, are 100% waterproof, termite-proof, rust-proof, and can hold up to 200 kilos.
More info on Simply Modular:

G/F SMDC M Place Panay Avenue Quezon City 

Tel No: 0917-637-4152 

Store Hours: 10AM – 8PM Mon – Sun

E-mail: hello@simplymodular.ph

What to Model to Our Children

Modeling who we want our children to become is one of the most effective ways to influence them positively. 


Model the Right Character – Christ-likeness

I grew up in a home where my parents loved God, served God, and taught us to do the same. They weren’t perfect, but I saw a genuine desire and faithfulness to live out the principles they preached. The best version of themselves was at home, with us. I would see my dad delivering sermons at the pulpit and I would think, I trust what he is saying because he lives it out at home. There’s no hypocrisy. 


My dad didn’t yell or shout at us. He was strict and he disciplined us (I was probably the most disciplined, he he) but like my mom, he was an encouraging person. Generally speaking, his even-temperedness kept the climate of the home positive. Although I feared him out of respect, I knew that he wasn’t going to blow up or hurt us when people in the home made mistakes.

Even towards my mom, he was very patient. My mom once joked that she spilled stuff on him during every airplane ride. (He finally decided to sit across the aisle from her rather than right beside her to avoid getting hurt by hot tea or coffee.) I saw what my mom meant when we were having a family dinner and my mom accidentally knocked over a cup of hot tea on him as she reached across the table. He didn’t raise his voice or react in irritation. Instead, he calmly wiped his arm and continued conversing with all of us. I was like, wow. If that was me…I don’t know if I would be so composed!

As for my mom, she was predictably and contagiously joyful when I was a kid. Till this day she is one of my favorite persons to hang out with. There’s something very attractive about her joy in the Lord. 

In fact, when I was struggling with my role as a wife in my early married years Edric would actually tell me, “Why don’t you spend some time with mom? I am sure being with her will make you feel better.” 

He knew that I would come away from my time with her recharged and spiritually energized. And more importantly, she imparted to me godly advice. 

Sometimes, when I am unusually positive, he still asks jokingly, “Did you spend time with mom today?! Why are you so cheerful?!”

The culture of a Christ-centered family has to begin with us, as parents. It’s a top-down thing. What my siblings and I saw in my parents, we copied (the good and the bad, but praise God there was much more good to copy). 

My parents’ positive role-modeling coupled with their intentional discipleship bore fruit in the lives of my siblings and me. Today, my siblings and I, along with our spouse, share the same core values and beliefs as my parents. Even if we have discussions and disagreements every now and then, by God’s grace, we share unity in Him.
I once told my father, “Dad, it feels a little bit like heaven when we all get together. It’s like a foretaste of what heaven might be like someday.”

We talk about what God is doing in our lives, share the victories and the struggles, and come along side one another to encourage and lovingly correct each other so we can all grow in our faith. Furthermore, there’s so much laughter and talking we sometimes get lost in all the conversation and forget what time it is. 

At the center of our family is Jesus Christ and all glory goes to Him. My parents were great parents not because they were special, but because they were committed to Christ. As the apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1

Model the Right Mission – a passion for the gospel / compassion for the lost

Besides their Christ-likeness, one of the most significant things I saw in my parents’ lives was a passion to share the word of God, to share the gospel. My parents would come home from their out of town or overseas trips and tell us, “Guess what, I shared the gospel with the person beside me on the plane.” 

Or, they would finish a golf game and say, “My caddy accepted the Lord today.” 

As a younger woman, I remember going with my mom to malls and during her encounters with check-out counter clerks, salesladies, waiters, or whoever was serving her, she tried to share the gospel. These moments made such an impression on my heart about the importance of the gospel. 

One of the more dramatic gospel stories of my mom was when she ran after a thief who stole her bag in Trinoma mall. She chased after this woman in her high heels. When a guard finally apprehended the thief, my mom caught up to her and retrieved her purse. 

The guard asked if my mom wanted to file a report against the thief, but she replied, “Oh no, I just want to talk to her for a bit.”

Her more urgent priority was to tell the woman, “There must be some reason why you took my bag. There must be a greater need that you have and so I want to tell you about Jesus.”

The woman thief prayed with my mom to receive Jesus into her heart! 

I needed to see my parents model a passion for the gospel so that it would become a priority for me. The same is true for my own kids. Our second son, Edan, has asked Edric and me numerous times about the realities of heaven and hell. He has struggled with questions like, “What if someone never hears the gospel. Is if fair that they go to hell?”

So whenever he sees us sharing the gospel with people, it matters to him. A few weeks ago, I shared the gospel with one of our household help. Edan overheard me and when I got to the prayer part, I saw him tearing.

Asking if he was okay, he revealed, “Mom, I thought about the verse in the Bible, about how there is rejoicing in heaven when people come to Jesus, and I just felt happy.”

When we had a shoot the other day and he heard me explaining the gospel to one of the moms I had met, he came up to me during the break and asked, “When are you going to do the closure mom? To pray with her?”

“Oh, you were listening?”

“Of course, Mom.” 

Another one of my sons corrected me for not bringing gospel tracts to give to a student who was soliciting money from us when we were at a coffee shop. He reminded me, “I think you should always have a gospel track mom, so you can give it to people.”

“You are right, son.” 

If we don’t show a sense of urgency or compassion for the lost, why will our kids ever grow up to do the same?

Edric and I also believe in involving our children in ministry with us. We don’t want them to feel like ministry takes us away from them. Instead, we want them to witness transformed lives and develop a conviction to be a blessing to others as they accompany us.

When I still lived at home, it was a privilege to observe my parents in action, ministering to others. This is one of the reasons why the principles of God’s word made sense to me. Since my siblings and I would be invited to listen to my parents counsel other couples or singles at the dinner table, we would make the connection – when you follow God, you are blessed, when you don’t, there are painful consequences. We perceived that the people who had joy and peace were the ones who obeyed God’s word. It was also reassuring to see how God could redeem the mistakes of people.

Model the Right Values

Because we live in a world where our children are assaulted daily by values that are contradictory to ours, it’s necessary for us to model the right ones for them. Whether it is the way we deal with conflict and difficult people, how we process trying circumstances, the way we choose to spend our time, talents and money, the habits we have, or the friends we surround ourselves with, our children are watching us closely. They are taking their cues from us.  

What we put emphasis on, they will, too. Take for instance being extravagant. If we want our kids to be frugal and discerning about what they spend on, if we want them to avoid materialism, do they see these convictions lived out in us? Do we demonstrate to them what it means to be a steward of God’s resources? 

One time, I asked my kids, “What do you think mom and dad are most passionate about?”

I was hoping they would immediately volunteer the answer, “You are passionate about God!” 

Instead, I got a very innocent and honest response, “Mom, you are passionate about your phone.” 

Oh my goodness, I thought. What have I been modeling for them?

I tried to explain, “You know that I use my phone for ministry, right? And my bible is on my phone? And I reach out to people through my phone?”

However, I just looked silly trying to defend myself. What my kids were basically telling me was that I spent a lot of time on my phone. So I had to change.

Even in small things, Edric and I have to be careful. We enjoy Netflix, but we have to be mindful of what we watch, even what we listen to because our kids copy us. We can’t say to them, “Don’t watch this show, it’s only for adults.”

As much as possible, we try to watch shows that we can all enjoy as a family. If it’s defiling for our kids to watch something, then why do we think it’s okay for us? Aren’t we called to honor the same temple?  

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This passage also applies to exercise and health. Our kids need to see us being disciplined about our eating, sleeping, and diet. We can’t emphasize healthiness in the home if it’s not backed up by our examples.

At the same time, we can’t be obsessed about wellness either. When Elijah started to act like a hypochondriac, I realized it was my example feeding him with fears. 

So there has to be a balance. Taking care of our bodies is a good thing but not when it moves into the realm of idolatry. 

Model the Right Perspective – A spiritual perspective 

My family experienced a major crisis when I was fifteen. However, long before this event I had observed the manner in which my parents handled various crises in their own lives. When people wronged them, betrayed them, or maligned them, they didn’t take it personally or hold grudges. Instead they processed difficult people and circumstances with spiritual lenses. 

When something or someone was beyond their control, they did their part to fix what they could but they also prayed instead of panicked. They often reminded my siblings and me that God was in control, sovereign, and causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)  

Our children are bound to encounter their own set of challenges in life. Seeing how we respond with faith and trust in God during times of testing will strengthen them for the storms that will come their way. 

Model the Right Kind of Authenticity – Be humble when you make mistakes 

The reality is that we make mistakes as parents. Edric and I have hurt our kids and been bad examples at certain points, and our kids know that we have our weaknesses. But one thing that we have learned is that the best remedy is to humbly ask for their forgiveness and commit to change when we mess up.

 Last year Edric and I had a speaking engagement in Baguio on parenting young kids. On the way, we had an issue. One of our kids passed gas in the car and the smell was terrible. Edric was preparing his message and the smell bothered him so much he asked, “Who passed gas?”

A hand went up in the backseat and someone said, “I’m sorry dad, I did.”

Since Edric is sensitive to smells, he felt annoyed, and declared an ultimatum, “Kids, no one is allowed to pass gas in the car EVER.”

When I heard him say this, I felt annoyed. How can this ridiculous, exasperating rule be imposed on young children? We have a three year old!

So, my mistake was I disrespectfully challenged Edric in front of the kids, “So you mean to tell me you never pass gas in the car, hon?”

The kids were listening to us go back and forth as we dragged the verbal arguing on. Finally, we got to the venue and I didn’t want to speak about parenting. I felt like we were parenting failures at that moment.

God convicted me to apologize for my disrespect to Edric and the kids which I did. As for Edric, I just prayed that God would speak to him, especially since one of our sons whispered to my ear, “It’s kind of hypocritical of dad to tell us not to pass gas.”

I replied in faith, “I’m sure your dad will talk to you and you can share this with him.”

Thankfully, that’s exactly what Edric did. He too was convicted about what happened in the car and he apologized to me, to the kids, to everyone. Peace and joy were restored and Edric and I could truthfully stand in front of the audience with our kids sitting in the back.

Since we are imperfect parents, we will make mistakes, but the good news is that the willingness to say sorry and ask for forgiveness keeps our children’s hearts soft. 

James 5:16 reminds us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

To encourage the parents out there, God is committed to helping us fulfill our role. He will continue to change us and mold us into the persons He wants us to be. However, we have to be willing to repent and change when we make mistakes. 

I want to end by sharing what Edric and I learned from an Easter family breakthrough retreat. Every parent has to be able to ask their children, “How have I hurt you? How can I improve? And will you forgive me for…”

We can try our best to be a model of Christlikeness but if we fail, these questions will keep our kids from developing bitterness and hard hearts towards us and towards following God.

Model the Right Roles 

This part was written by my fourteen year old, Elijah: 

Around a year ago, right before my thirteenth birthday, my Dad took me to climb Mt. Apo, as sort of a “rite-of-passage” ritual into manhood. He modeled how to be a man. Being very responsible and prepared, Dad created a checklist of things we needed to bring, and pitched a tent in our yard so we could practice for the real thing (it was actually much harder than the real thing, being in our rocky yard), then finally took out our little burner and grilled some food out in our yard, too. But we still ate some of the dinner cooked by Mom. Because we learned from our mistakes, we were able to camp more comfortably on the actual mountain. 

At one point during our climb to Mt. Apo, my Dad was so exhausted that he told me, “I’ll probably climb back down and call a helicopter to pick me up.”

However, he kept pushing and made it to the summit. He even shared the gospel with a few people at the top. 

During my time with him on the mountain he showed me how to live with very little and be content with it. Although it was difficult, we had a lot of fun. Dad pushing himself made me want to push myself too. I reached the top second! (Of course, our guide got there first.)

Another way my dad teaches me to be a man is through speaking engagements he brings me on, showing me what he does and exposing me to all kinds of people. I learn how a man should conduct himself, how one can communicate effectively, and how to have God-confidence. In his talks, he tries to insert the Gospel as much as spossible, no matter what he is speaking about. This assures me that I, too, can be confident to put verses in my sharing and not be afraid to share God’s word. 

Model the Right Priorities

Significantly, one of the most recent things Dad has taught me is the value of priorities. Through the years, Dad has showed me how to give up good things to make way for great things. 

Back in September 2015, my Dad got an offer to be an anchor for Mornings@ANC, a morning news show. He told us that he was so excited about the opportunity because it was a major show which paid good money. We also thought that it would be great as a platform for God. So, my Dad took the job after praying about it and getting advice from others. 

Initially, it was fun to have him come home after the show to catch us at breakfast and share all the goodies and freebies he would get. And my Dad seemed to enjoy it as he would share stories with my Mom. 

However, his schedule was crazy. You see, he had to wake up at 3:30am to be at the studio by 4:30am. To wake up at this time, he had to sleep by around 7:30pm. But this was just a show on top of his other work. So when he got home from the Morning Show, we would catch him for breakfast briefly, then he would leave for work and come home just in time for dinner then head off early to bed.

To be honest, after a few months of this, I felt that Dad wasn’t spending enough time with me anymore, and I am a time person. I hardly got to talk with Dad and I didn’t see him a lot because of his difficult schedule. I tried to forget about it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it because I missed him. So one day, I told my Mom how I felt. 

“I feel like Dad has been out too often. His show is taking him away from us.” While I was talking, my eyes started to perspire (because men don’t cry; their eyes only perspire). 

Apparently, I was not the only one feeling this way as my brother Edan also shared the same thing to my Mom. Also with eyes tearing. 

Because of this, Mom told Dad about it privately. That very same night, Dad spoke to my brother and me. He started the conversation by asking us, “How can I improve?” 

Edan and I told him that he was way too busy, and that we missed him. Since I was getting emotional, I stood up for a bit and as I walked away to compose myself, I said to my Dad, “There are more important things in life than money. I will pray for you Dad.” 

My Dad then gathered us together and embraced us tightly and looked at us with a smile, and said he would do something about it.

You know what? A few days later my Dad called us to gather around him as a family, saying he had something to share. He then told us that he had resigned from the show! I know it was hard for him because I saw sadness in his eyes. After all, he was turning down such a good opportunity and he would lose income. 

When I saw this, I felt like I wanted to take back what I said. But instead, I ended up saying, “Thank you for choosing to be with us.” Then I hugged him tightly. 

My dad started to make lots of time for us. We got to spend a lot more time together. So when he didn’t win an award he was nominated for called the Oustanding Young Man award and he felt discouraged, I told him, “You don’t need that award dad. You are the most oustanding man to me.”  

Inspired by his example, I try my best to prioritize too. One way is by reading my Bible and praying first thing in the morning, which should be my greatest priority. After that, I try my best to get my responsibilities done like practicing violin and completing homeschool work. 

One of the last things I am learning about modeling is that it is not just from my parents to us children, but also from us to our siblings. For instance, I have noticed that my siblings copy me when I read my Bible and practice instruments in the morning. Even Catalina, my three-year-old sister, who cannot read, will pick up her picture Bible and pretend to read.

To be honest, I don’t always model the right things—I don’t always read my Bible like this and I don’t always prioritize my responsibilities. Sometimes, I lose my temper, get impatient, and fight with my siblings. When this happens, I realize that I need to ask for forgiveness and try to improve. That’s something I see my parents do when they too make mistakes and it encourages me to do the same.

Ultimately, their goal and my goal is to copy Christ—he is the perfect model. So please pray Please that I will copy Christ more and more, through the years, and that when I fail, I will be humble and willing to improve. Please pray the same for my parents, that they will be humble and ask for forgiveness when they mess up. I’m sure they would appreciate it. God bless you all!


 

 

I Trust You

Since my two older sons don’t need me to micromanage them, I have shifted my parenting style to give them room to exercise personal discretion. Instead of dictating their schedules or giving them a suggestion when they ask me, “What should I do?” or, “Can I do..”, I now say, “You decide. I trust you.” 

Those three words, “I trust you,” communicate my confidence in their capacity to make good choices. Having spent so many years teaching them the difference between right and wrong, it’s time they take ownership of their choices and assume responsibility for the consequences of their decisions. 

Interestingly, this “I trust you” statement actually makes them more conscientious about choosing wisely. 

Edan came up to me the other day and shared, “Mom, you know, when you say you trust me it actually makes me want to be very careful because I don’t want to break your trust.” 

I told him, “That’s a good thing.”

After all, he is old enough to know what is beneficial and what is harmful to him. For instance, recently he asked me if all the kids (himself included) could use the gadgets while Edric and I were out of the house. Our children know our rules and standards for gadget-use but we don’t hover over them every time they are on one to make sure they are following these. 

Edric and I have had many talks with our children about the dangers of media and guarding their eyes from pornography. We have talked to them about sex in the context of marriage and why it’s a beautiful thing. So they know what to avoid and run away from. 

Even though I want to amp up the controls to ensure that my kids never look upon any worthless thing online, it’s not possible to regulate everything my older sons do. Edric perspective on the matter is a better one. He asserts, “We cannot fully protect our children from pornography but we can prepare them.”

Between the two of us, I probably err on legalism more than he does, so this is a great reminder for me. I don’t want our kids to feel like following God is about external behavior. What matters is their hearts, realizing that God’s design and His will for them leads to fullness of life, and that they are accountable to Him for their actions. Daddy and mommy won’t always be watching. 

Our role as parents is to “train up our children in the way they should go” as Proverbs 22:6 commands so that “when they are older, they will not depart from it.” Personally, I believe that the ages of 1 to 12 require intensive teaching and training. These years are the conviction-building stage– when our children need us to pour into their hearts the word of God, to emphasize the truths that ought to direct their thinking and decision-making. It’s also in this stage when we need to warn them about the pitfalls of life– conflicting world views, sexual immorality, addictions, materialism — and how to choose the right friends and a future life partner. During this season it’s important for us to look for evidence that they love God and understand what it means to have a personal relationship with Him. 

If we have been intentional in their younger years, then we can relax in the area of micromanaging their decisions. In fact, we should avoid doing this. (The discipleship and availability, however, don’t have to end.)

My parents were very relaxed. Neither of them waited for my siblings and I to come home at night when we asked to go out with friends. They slept peacefully, trusting that we recognized we were accountable to God. They also rested in the Lord, knowing that our lives were in His hands. This doesn’t mean they were careless and uninvolved. In fact, they spent so much time being intentional about training and teaching us to make wise decisions that when we were “teenagers,” they let us know that we had their trust. 

In the meantime, they encouraged open communication, prayed for us consistently, and continued to disciple us and affirm God’s truth in our lives. Their style simply changed with consideration for our capacity to make our own choices. They respected us in this sense, and my siblings and I desired to please them and obey them. 

I have shared that of all my siblings, I learned about wrong choices the hard way. However, I came back to the principles that my parents taught me as a child. These truths hooked me back to the path I needed to be on and perpetually gnawed at my conscience when I ignored them. And like Edan told me recently, I wanted to preserve my parent’s trust in me, just as he wants to preserve my trust in him. 

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” Proverbs‬ ‭1:8-10‬ ‭

This past year, I struggled with understanding my changing role in the lives of my older sons. I recall my father-in-law taking me aside to tell me very kindly that I had to avoid babying them, that it wouldn’t be healthy for their manhood. He sought to prepare my heart for the necessary shift in my role as mother to sons who were growing past the childhood stage. He emphasized that Edric should be taking over as far as mentoring them on how to think, act like, and be men. It’s a blessing that Edric has gladly and wholeheartedly been present to do this. 

As for me, I am taking the “I trust you” approach which seems to be working so far, and only because our older sons value my (our) trust and know that obedience brings blessing. I trust them because they have a relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit will convict them when they go astray. My confidence is in the work of Christ in their lives…

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭

WHO AM I?

Although I grew up in a home where my parents affirmed me and taught me what it means to have God-confidence, I wrestled with deep-seated insecurity.

As a third-culture kid who was half-American and half-Chinese but living in the Philippines, I didn’t quite feel like I fit in, racially speaking, anywhere. I was too Asian looking to be called American, and I was too foreign looking to be called Filipino. A street kid once yelled into our car window, “Pekeng kano (fake American)!”, and  it actually troubled me.

When I got older, I entertained thoughts such as, Dad is prouder of my siblings more than he is of me because they are smarter, more accomplished, and less “sinful.” Although my parents always assured each one of us that we were equally loved, I compared myself to my brothers and sisters.

Since childhood I also struggled with body insecurities, which plague me to this very day. Anytime I weigh myself and see that I’m more than 118 pounds, I panic and feel like I’m fat and should punish myself by eating less or exercising. Since I have never been completely happy with how my body looks, I sometimes think of a hundred things I wish I could change.

Furthermore, I continue to have skin that is prone to break outs, which began in my teens, and blemishes tend to steal my peace as well. (How ironic that I became an endorser for Cetaphil! That’s God’s grace. Their products have helped me a lot.)

Edric, on the other hand, has smaller pores than I do. He doesn’t have skin problems which sometimes makes me so envious. About ten years ago he had a mole on his face that kept growing and I was really concerned about it, so I suggested that he get it checked. Since he wasn’t the kind of guy who fussed over his skin, he ignored it. Miraculously, the mole fell off! No scar. Nothing. Like the mole was never there. I thought, Wow, that’s not fair. Lord, how come he’s the guy in our marriage and he has the nicer skin. Why not me?!

One of the more serious symptoms of my insecurity was seeking the approval of people. For example, as an eight year old child, I wanted all my classmates to like me so I lied about having a variety of animals in our house. I made it sound like we had a zoo! Unfortunately this bloated narrative prevented me from inviting my classmates over because no such zoo existed in our home. Thank God my parents homeschooled me the year after so I never had to show proof of this zoo!

When it came to friends, I got into drinking just to feel like I belonged. While drinking isn’t wrong per se, it was my motivations for doing it. One year I went on a long trip to Europe with some of my girl friends and almost every night we would go to clubs. Though wildly fun, I never felt at peace each morning after.

At one point, we were hanging out with all kinds of guys and the guys would flirt with us, and one of the guys asked if he could take me home to his place. I knew what this meant, and I told him, “No, I’m not interested.” 

After rejecting his proposal, he made me feel like a loser for turning him down. This was one of the moments that got me thinking, If I continue down this path, if I do things to earn people’s favor because I want them to think I’m cool or fun then I’m going to destroy my life. Furthermore, and most importantly, I called myself a Christian, yet I didn’t honor Christ with my life. Plus, behind the exterior of my good girl façade, I knew there was something spiritually wrong with me.

Because I was always looking for affirmation, this carried over into the way I related with guys. I liked the attention I received from guys. It made me feel important and special, and I attached my self-worth to this.

So in high school I dated a guy who was popular, athletic, intelligent, and funny, even if my parents discouraged me from doing so. Our relationship became very physical. I let him manipulate me emotionally. If I wasn’t physical with him, he would ignore me, give me a hard time, or make me feel guilty, like I was a bad person. I allowed myself be treated this way for at least two years. After we broke up, he visited from the U.S. a couple of times and our encounters would turn physical again.

Ultimately, it was my choice to do the things I did because I desired my boyfriend’s approval more than obeying God. So I compromised to keep him interested in me, even if it was a very unhealthy relationship.

I struggled with purity again when I got into my second serious relationship. This time it was with Edric in college. However, this time I wasn’t forced into it. I willingly committed immorality and at times, initiated it. Although Edric and I didn’t have actual intercourse, the Holy Spirit kept convicting us of our sin. Both of us knew we weren’t pleasing God. 

Due to the series of unwise and sinful choices I made, I felt like a spiritually broken person after my college years. The disconnect between my private life and whom I claimed to be, bred fear and robbed me of peace. I didn’t want my parents, family, or friends to know my secret sins, so I hid for many years, by avoiding conversations about my relationships, or I lied to preserve my image. But this charade grew tiring, even for Edric. We could no longer stomach the spiritual fatigue of a sin-confess-sin-confess lifestyle. In order to honor God and seek after His will for us, we finally broke off our relationship two years into it.

When a friend of our family approached my mom and said, “I had a dream about your kids, all of them had a candle, except for Joy,” I secretly panicked. Deep down I knew that having NO candle basically meant that I had not been a light for Christ. So I wanted to change, but I felt like such a failure. 

Still battling this demon of insecurity, another unhealthy perspective began to surface in my life – that I was the worst of the “Tan-Chi” kids. My siblings were all better than me. I would never be as good as they were. They qualified as blessed but not me. Once again, it was all about comparing myself to others. So, I had to come to a point in my life where I saw myself as God saw me, not as I saw myself in comparison with others, or how I felt others saw me.

First, I was a sinner. There was nothing good in me apart from Him. But He loved me and died for me. Even if I had made the mistakes I had as a professed follower of Christ, even if I had been so displeasing to Him, He would love me still and He would forgive me if I truly repented. So my sense of security wasn’t in what I could do to perform or earn back God’s love, God’s grace. It was in what Jesus had done for me. I felt like the prodigal coming back to Him. But dealing with my wrong thinking was a process for me.

Second, I had to remember that I was a child of God, therefore my purpose was to represent Him, glorify Him, and lead others to Him. After Edric and I broke up, I recognized how directionless my my life was. My choices revolved around what made me feel good about myself, what made me feel significant or important. 

Therefore, it was time to make my own decision to follow God, not based on my family’s convictions, but my own. I had to accept God’s plan and purpose for my life– whom He created me to be and what He created me for. This conviction had to be birthed out of a true understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Although I had been raised in a Christian home, did I really believe that following Christ was the best life to live? Did I really believe that I was set apart as 1 Peter 2:9 says? “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God for He called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

Today, I still struggle with my insecurities.  At the root of it is pride, being self-focused. I once told someone, I think the struggles that we have as children, the weaknesses and character flaws that we dealt with when we were kids will continue to be the things we wrestle with even into our adulthood. Therefore, we have to remain dependent on the Holy Spirit to be victorious until God calls us home.

More recently, when I married my husband, Edric, my insecurities revolved around money. I knew that we weren’t starting off with a lot of money. As a starry-eyed bride caught up in the romance of our relationship, I wasn’t that worried. Maybe we wouldn’t be rich but I was certain we would have enough. 

Well, reality set in within the first year of our marriage. It wasn’t easy having just enough. Admittedly, coming from a family with means felt like a big contrast to what we had. Enough didn’t quite feel enough. I couldn’t travel. I had to stick to a tight budget. Even if I didn’t grow up seeing my parents spend on luxury goods because that wasn’t a value of theirs, we lived very comfortably because my dad was a successful businessman.

When I compared my state in life to my siblings and parents, jealousy and disappointment would settle in. Not having a lot of money actually made me feel insecure once again. 

God had to remind me repeatedly, I am your provider. I will take care of you and Edric, your family. You focus on honoring me and obeying me. 

After nearly sixteen years of marriage, I have seen his faithfulness in the area of provision.

Yet it’s no surprise that to this very day, I have to combat insecurity. Here are some practical measures that help me to embrace my identity in Christ and focus on living for Him:

Confess my struggle. When comparing, jealousy, approval-seeking, and fear of people begin to take root in my heart, I have to weed these out by coming before the Lord and admitting my weakness and negative thinking. Then I ask for His forgiveness, for my mind to be renewed. 

“if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ephesians‬ ‭4:21-24‬ ‭

Detox from social media and other media. I intentionally avoid looking at things that fill my heart with discontent, that put in my heart an appetite for pursuits that aren’t aligned with God’s will for me. This past Holy Week, I took a break from checking social media. How liberating it was to leave my Instagram and Facebook accounts alone! 

Be grateful. “Thank you, Lord, for who I am, whom you made me to be, for the life you have given to me, and for empowering me to do the things you want me to.”

Someone once told me, “God has given you everything you need to do what He wants you to.”

I’ve never forgotten that statement. The family I was born in to, my genetics, racial background, appearance, resources, the talents and abilities that God has given me, as well as my inabilities, are everything I need to fulfill His calling and plan for my life. Most important of all, I have the Holy Spirit to empower me. As Philippians 4:13 states, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” 

Look to the needs of those around me, instead of focusing on myself. How can I be a blessing to others? How can I be a messenger of the gospel? How can I point people to Christ?

My mom has often encouraged me, “When you are with others, think of how you can bless them, how you can reach out to them.” 

It’s a great cure for self-centeredness! 

Evaluate my choices and motives by asking the questions, Am I doing this for God’s glory or for my own glory? Is there anything I am doing that is dishonoring to God’s name?

For example, whenever I read negative comments from readers that target me personally, I have to think through how I will respond because the tendency is to react and be defensive. Therefore I have to mentally review…Why am I doing what am I doing? Whom am I trying to draw attention to?

When I started this blog, my desire was to point people to Christ. So when people make an obvious attack on my biblical worldview, then I try not to take it personally.  However, if it is an accusation that addresses a character issue I need to fix, then I have to apologize and change.

It’s very easy to be cruel and vengeful on social media or on the Internet, so I remind myself that I represent Christ. Everything I do online and offline has to glorify Him. My persona online has to be consistent with my identity in Christ. Whatever platform I use and whatever platform God has given to me, the intention must be to glorify God.

Maybe you grew up in a good Christian home like I did. You were exposed to ministry experiences where you saw your parents wholeheartedly serve God. Or maybe you witnessed hypocrisy, with your parents preaching and teaching one thing and modeling the opposite at home.

Whichever category you fall under, I hope you will understand that you and I can’t make our choice to follow God dependent on our parents’ faith. Their passion for the Lord isn’t a genetically inherited trait. And their lack of passion isn’t an excuse for us to deny who we are and what we were made for. Each one of us has to ask the question, “Who am I?”

Colossians 1:16 tells us, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him.”‭‭‭

Every one of us was created by God and for Him. So it boils down to a personal decision – Will I embrace the identity that God made me to have? And will this identity define how I think, speak, and act? Or will I continue trying to find my identity apart from God? 

As for those of you who are parents like me, let’s not give up praying for our kids and affirming who they are in Christ. Although our children are accountable to God to make their personal faith decisions, we are also accountable to do our part to raise our children to know, love, serve, and obey God. 

My parents loved me unconditionally and walked along side me during my wayward years. They continued to pour into my heart and mind spiritual truth. Yet I am convinced that it was their faithful praying that saved me from the course I was on. By God’s grace, their prayers worked, too! There is hope in Christ! 

I Threw a Pencil, Ripped a Page, and Slammed the Door

So today I actually lost it, like really lost it as I was teaching math to my daughter, Tiana. She couldn’t grasp regrouping for addition, and even with the use of manipulatives and lots of reviewing to help her get it, our lesson turned into a massive fail because of my outburst. 

First, I threw a pencil at the window. Every one of my kids saw this. That was after lesson # 1 with Tiana. I apologized and replaced the pencil, mumbling some excuse to justify my annoyance.
We even prayed together and asked for the Lord to fill all of us. I confessed my anger to my kids aloud and asked for their forgiveness. 

Truthfully, I wasn’t really sorry. I probably should have abandoned the work Tiana had to do for about an hour to get a grip of my emotions. But I persisted, demanding that she finish the two pages of math work assigned for the day. Therefore the worst was yet to come.

By the time we got to the practice bit of the lesson, Tiana blanked out and forgot what to do… AGAIN. By this time, she most likely sensed my irritation growing by the way I sighed loudly and convoluted my face, like I was incredulous that something so simple could be so difficult for her. So when the mounting pressure of anger reached its climax, I pressed hard with her pencil and circled one of the numbers I wanted her to pay attention to…like twenty times! Then I stood up, absolutely peeved, grabbed her book in my hands and ripped the page we were supposed to work on next, yelled out in exasperation, and stormed out of the homeschool room. When I got to my bedroom I intentionally, as well as forcefully, slammed my bedroom door to emphasize how mad I was.

Throwing myself onto my bed, I cried out, “I can’t do this, Lord! I have had it! I give up! I can’t homeschool her! I don’t know what to do!”

After some minutes of my face plastered against my pillow, sobbing over my failure, and my body lying prostrate on the bed, reality jolted me out of my delirium. I knew that I had to get back to the kids. Hello! I was their teacher! I couldn’t leave them in our “classroom” and abandon my responsibilities. More importantly, they needed to hear an apology from me. Another one. A real one. I behaved like an emotionally immature adult and without a doubt, deeply wounded them. This moment needed repairing.

So I collected myself, and walked back to the homeschool room. Tiana was curled up beside Catalina, who broke the silence. “Mommy, will you forgive Tiana?” 

Forgive Tiana?! She had it all mixed up.

“Catalina, mommy was the wrong one. Will you forgive me?” 

I had to ask for forgiveness from all of them, especially when Tiana tearfully explained, “Mom, I-I-I felt bad because you were frustrated and ran to your room. I cried.”

Pulling her to myself, unable to give any sort of defense for my actions, I hugged and kissed her tightly. 

“I was so wrong, Tiana. Will you please forgive me. I am so sorry. I was a bad example.” 

Tiana nodded kindly and managed to smile. I didn’t deserve that smile. It was generous, forgiving, trusting. I know she meant it. 
We resumed with extra math practice, but I was guilt-ridden. The rest of the morning, I didn’t want to homeschool.

At some point, the kids, bless their hearts, sought to assist me. They took over the base ten rods and blocks and proceeded to explain the concept of adding to Tiana, encouraging her and patiently going over each problem she had to solve. 

I grabbed my phone to call Edric. He listened as I quietly begged, “Please come home early today. I need you. I lost it.” 

He knew what I meant and chuckled. This wasn’t the first time. I have marched into his study room in the past ranting in exasperation about how hard it is to teach math to Tiana. 

“Okay,” He replied reassuringly, promising to head home as soon as he could. 

I felt him smiling at the other end of the phone. He didn’t mean to belittle my emotions. But in the midst of a major decision he needed to make about the business today, my issue probably seemed almost cute to him. 

Yet it wasn’t. There wasn’t anything cute about my outburst.

Truthfully, I hated myself this morning. I hated homeschooling. I hated Tiana’s math book and the inconvenience of having to teach something over and over again in futility.  I felt like I was a total failure as a mom and wondered if homeschooling is worth it. 

Why do I have to agonize over teaching when I can send my kids to school and let their education be an institution’s problem…not mine?

In fact, moments after I spoke to Edric on the phone, I messaged him, proposing that I should send Tiana to school so that I can avoid getting angry because I don’t want to hurt her emotionally. I have never suggested this about any of my kids. Sure, I have felt irritated at each one of my children for various reasons, but I have never felt such an intense frustration to the point that I want to throw objects, bang my head against the wall, jump up and down, break a pencil, tear a book in half, or scream at the top of my lungs just to let all the internal pressure out! It’s like those moments in the movies when a character is seated across another person, staring at them expressionlessly, seemingly calm on the outside, but then you get to peer inside the character’s mind and see them role-playing all kinds of violent scenes! 

The Bible says, “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

My anger didn’t inspire Tiana to try harder. It just made her feel insecure and incapable. Letting out all that pent up anger didn’t make me feel the relief I wanted to feel, either. And now the kids have a bad memory about mommy that they may well remember into their adulthood. 

In fact, Edan remarked, “Now, you have two things you’ve done in anger that we will remember.” (He was referring to one other incident some years ago when I threw a box of math manipulatives onto the floor, which terrified all of them.)

Edan also admitted as the hour was approaching noon, “Mom, when you are not happy, none of us feel happy.” 

Titus said, “Mom, I prayed for you, and I cried a little when you got mad.” 

Elijah added, “I was actually scared. And I was sad, and I knew you had a problem.”

When I got the chance to speak with Edric over dinner, he listened very understandingly to my narrative, but his take on the matter was this, “This is God’s way of humbling you. This is an opportunity to be dependent on Him.”

He’s right. Home schooling is hard work. It is miserably difficult sometimes, and mostly because parenting and homeschooling are interconnected and you have to be intentional about the former to be good at the latter. Home schooling magnifies your flaws and makes you realize how much you need the Lord, that you can never do it well for each child, through every season and for all the years that you do it apart from Him. The best homeschooling days are the ones when I remember this. The worst ones, like today, are the ones when I try to force my kids to learn and push them for the wrong reasons, mostly selfish ones.  

However, I will end by talking about how beautiful God’s grace is. Tiana returned to her cheerful self the rest of the day, almost like she forgot what happened. I’m sure she didn’t, she hasn’t, but I praise God for the opportunity to repair my mistake later on in the day. This is one of the reasons why home schooling has made such a positive difference in our family – the kids and I have so much time together, to build and rebuild our relationship. I had the rest of the day to hug, kiss, and affirm Tiana. By the evening, we prayed together and she fell asleep peacefully, knowing she was loved and treasured by me.

As for my four other kids (especially my two older ones), they were strangely comforted by my display of weakness. After I asked for forgiveness, one of them confessed, “You know, mom, I also feel mad at times and I can relate with how you felt.”

In other words, we get it, mom, none of us are perfect, we struggle with the same things.

Edric also came to my rescue (and Tiana’s), offering to help teach Tiana addition and subtraction. He knows how to add the element of fun in his instruction and not take the obstacles too seriously. Yeah!

I have to believe that God can still use a bad incident like this and use it for good in our homeschool journey. I’m ashamed about what happened, but I thought to share it as a reminder to myself that home schooling on my own power isn’t enough. On a practical level, I also need to walk away, maybe get a glass of water, say a quick prayer, breathe in deeply, or hum a happy tune when I feel the frustration rising in me so I don’t get to the point where I lose it on my kids. 

Is it just me? Can you all relate somehow? 
 

A Simple Family Habit That Can Make a Big Difference

Growing up, it was part of my family’s culture to ask, “How can I improve?” to one another. My parents encouraged open communication and honesty. To this day, family get-togethers include a time of accountability and sharing, where we can talk about our marriages, our parenting, our struggles and triumphs. As a result, my parents, my siblings and I, as well as our spouses and kids remain close to one another. We are each other’s confidants and friends. It may not always be easy to swallow each other’s correction and suggestions on how to improve, but we know that words are exchanged and offered in love and with the best intentions. 

I am so glad that Edric has embraced this same culture in our home. In fact, he is a good example to me of humility (something I continually need to improve on). When he messes up and makes mistakes as a husband or father, he will ask for forgiveness and repair whatever relational damage was inflicted by his wrongs. 

Lately, his schedule has been packed with meetings and activities. The busy-ness and stress have made him more susceptible to impatience. He has changed so much in this area that these moments of losing his cool have become infrequent. However, a few days ago, during a conversation with Elijah, our oldest son, Edric cut him off and didn’t let him explain himself. They were having a discussion over semantics. Elijah tried to make his point and give his rebuttal, but Edric told him to stop talking. This silenced Elijah who quietly conceded to Edric’s point in the discussion. 

Some days after I invited Elijah to an afternoon run. As we jogged over and around the hilly roads of our community, I thought to ask him, “How can I improve?” 

Elijah welcomes these invitations to speak about what’s on his heart. Since he is fourteen, he’s also very vocal. He told me I needed to be more consistent about schedules. True, true, true. Our recent travels threw off our routines which Elijah didn’t appreciate. (He likes predictability.)
After apologizing to Elijah, he opened up to me about how he felt his dad (Edric) could improve. I hadn’t asked him this, but he volunteered this information anyway. 

“Dad needs to listen to me more. I feel like I can’t always express myself, like he cuts me off.” 

I knew this statement was in reference to their recent conversation which left Elijah feeling hurt and impotent. As I quietly listened, I also thought through how I would bring up this issue to Edric later. 

When an opportunity presented itself (meaning Edric was in a relaxed mood and not stressed out about work), I pulled him aside and mentioned what Elijah expressed to me about him.

Edric immediately internalized what I shared. He wasn’t defensive. “Okay, I will talk to him.” 

As predicted, Edric found a moment during one breakfast to ask for Elijah’s forgiveness in front of our other kids. 

He looked Elijah in the eye, saying something like this, “Mom told me that you felt hurt. She said you feel like I cut you off, like the other day.” 

Elijah nodded and Edric followed up with, “Will you forgive me?” 

Elijah replied, “Of course, dad.” 

Breakfast continued pleasantly for everyone as the dialogue shifted to other matters. But I know that Edric’s willingness to change and improve impacted the heart of Elijah and our other kids in a very positive way. They have witnessed this sort of exchange before and it matters to them that the “loop is closed” on an issue affecting one or more of us. 

Furthermore, of all the people in our home, it is Edric’s example that imprints upon our kids what values are important to our family, what principles they too will live by. I am not discrediting my own participation in the formation of my kids’ sense of right and wrong. I too have a responsibility to model and teach my kids Christ-likeness. However, I do believe that the humility of a father is like a special key that unlocks the hearts of children. There’s something about a father, the head, the leader, the respected one, stepping down from his honored position to admit fault and weakness that thaws and softens a child’s cold and hardened heart. 

Of course, this doesn’t excuse us, as moms, from having to do the same thing!

Like any habit, it takes a while to get used to asking one another how we can improve. It may feel awkward at first. I remember one of the first times Edric and I asked each other how we can improve during a date night and the romantic event turned sour by the end. Defensively, I countered Edric’s statements about how I needed to change with excuses instead of just saying, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?”

So the question, “how can I improve?” ought to be followed by a sincere apology when it is answered. Otherwise, it won’t work. The moment will turn into a massive fail. 

Let me conclude by giving some reasons why we should ask the question, how can I improve?:

1. If our relationship with our family members is already in the danger zone, then this could be an opportunity to rescue it. Because a move like this would appear so unprecedented and unexpected, it could be the sort of jolt that awakens hope. 

2. If we are convinced that we have nothing to improve on, then we hazard nothing by daring to ask the question, right? 

3. But, hey, the chance are, our kids are well-aware of our flaws. We can’t fool them! They will definitely have something to say about how we can improve that will be honest and beneficial to our character growth. 

4. Our children long to feel treasured by us and anything that we do to threaten this need wounds them deeply. One of the best ways to communicate that we care about this need is to ask how we can be better parents, how we can act and speak in ways that tell them they are special to us. When our kids recognize that we are intentional about pursuing a loving and close relationship with them, they will be inspired to reciprocate. 

5. Transparency and openness in the home has to begin with us, as parents. We can’t expect our children to embrace open communication if they don’t see the sincerity in us first. We can’t expect them to humble themselves if we don’t do so.

“But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” Luke‬ ‭22:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

All of us have made mistakes as parents, but the good news is, it’s never too late to initiate a culture that ushers in healthy communication, healing, and restoration. Our children want to forgive us, they want to have better relationships us, but many times we don’t give them the opportunity to do these things. Maybe it’s because we are prideful, oblivious, or busy. Perhaps we are wounded oersons ourselves and haven’t experienced God’s grace to forgive our own parents or other family members who have injured us emotionally. Therefore, we don’t know how to ask the question or how to say sorry. 

Here’s a word of encouragement: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It is also time to break the cycle. We cannot alter events of the past but we can be catalysts for positive change in our own families, something that is within our control. And this can begin with a very simple habit, that of asking, “How can I improve?” 

Let’s try doing this once a week, working on the areas of change that are pointed out to us, and then let’s see how profoundly it affects the relationships and climates of our families.